Tuesday 17 July 2018

Incredibles 2 movie review: A simply Incredible sequel

Brad Bird's impressive sequel matches the charm and wit of its predecessor, says Paul Whitington

Family fortunes: Incredibles 2 is on a par with the first movie
Family fortunes: Incredibles 2 is on a par with the first movie

Paul Whitington

Brad Bird's 2004 film The Incredibles could be regarded as Pixar's forgotten masterpiece. Everyone knows about Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc. and Up, and rightly praise them to the skies, but The Incredibles tends to get lost in the mix and is every bit as good.

Indeed, Bird's film was eerily prescient, poking fun at the superhero genre just as it was about to take over Hollywood. His joke was a beautifully simple one: in an alternate world where superheroes have been ostracised, a family of 'supers' are forced to endure the ignominy of pretending to be normal suburbanites.

Pixar have returned to their greatest hits quite frequently in recent years, with mixed results: Toy Story 3 and Monsters University were pale imitations, and though Finding Dory was perfectly presentable, it was given a hard time because it was not Finding Nemo. Emotional investment in the Pixar classics is profound, for obvious reasons: people either grew up watching them or watched their children watching them, so assessments of sequels can be cruel. Toy Story 2 is the gold standard of Pixar follow-ups, a delightful adventure that effortlessly surpassed the achievements of the original, and Incredibles 2 isn't all that far behind it. Bird spent a good decade pondering the next step for his superhero family, the Parrs, who had defeated a supervillain called Syndrome but were still on the margins of respectable society, and in Incredibles 2 he introduces feminism to the equation.

Bob (Craig T Nelson), Helen (Holly Hunter) and their children Violet, Dash and baby Jack-Jack have grown tired of living in the Superhero Relocation Programme when they find out it's been cancelled. They're about to be evicted from their flea-pit motel when the Parrs are contacted by a tech billionaire called Winston Deaver (Bob Odenkirk). He loves supers and wants to speed their reintroduction to society by orchestrating a publicity stunt.

Helen will assume her old identity as Elastigirl and begin publicly fighting crime in the city of New Urbem, winning over hearts and minds. Which is all very well, but that means Bob, aka Mr Incredible, will have to become a stay-at-home dad. He grits his teeth and pretends to be happy about this, but will find it hard to deal with Dash's impetuousness, Violet's teenage tantrums and Jack-Jack's terrifying evolution into a super baby.

It turns out the child has all sorts of powers, and in perhaps the film's most hilarious scene he does battle with a racoon that appears to be his sworn enemy. Meanwhile, a real villain has emerged in New Urbem, and Helen smells a rat.

All the best Pixar films have succeeded because they're intensely personal works dressed up as blockbusters, and Incredibles 2 is no different.

Set in a future that feels like the past, it's full of wistful references to Bird's 1960s childhood: shows that look a lot like the Twilight Zone and Mission: Impossible burble away in the background on the Parrs' rather retro-looking TV set, and there are lots of witty cinematic in-jokes, even a brief tribute to the famous car chase in The French Connection.

The animation in this film is staggeringly ambitious, and shows how much things have come on in that regard since 2004. Domestic scenes are lit like Edward Hopper paintings, and you can almost count the individual stubble hairs on Bob's giant chin. The cityscapes are amazingly detailed, and provide mesmerising backdrops for the film's many action set-pieces, the most impressive of which is a sequence in which Elastigirl must really stretch herself to stop a runaway monorail.

Incredibles 2 is gorgeous to look at, but it's also very funny. Samuel L Jackson reprises the voice role of Frozone, Mr Incredible's oldest ally, while Catherine Keener brings colour and attitude to the role of Winston Deaver's inventor sister. Funniest of all, though, are Bob's attempts to become a new man: he really wants to be a help at home, but boils with rage when he watches his wife getting all the glory.

Incredibles 2 (PG, 125mins) - 5 stars

Films coming soon...

Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again! (Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth); Escape Plan 2 (Slyvester Stallone, Dave Bautista, Jaime King); Hotel Artemis (Dave Bautista, Sofia Boutella, Jeff Goldblum); Madame (Toni Collette, Harvey Keitel, Rossy de Palma).

Irish Independent

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